No youth detention facilities in residential areas: MLAs

2593 Juvenile detention 6LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The two new youth detention centres cannot be built in residential or industrial areas as planned by the Gunner Government.
Given the riots and breakouts we have seen in our centres over the past 12 months, the proposed sites of Kilgariff (Alice Springs) and Pinelands (Darwin) are totally unsuitable.
If these kids can escape from a former maximum security prison (now Don Dale) then they will escape from any facility. It is deeply unfair to compromise the safety and security of nearby residents and businesses.
Youth detention in the NT has gone from bad to worse over the past two years under the Gunner Government.
The overnight riot at Don Dale highlights the failings of the new approach taken by the Government.
It is obvious that if the NT Labor Government continues on the naive path it has set, the outlook is bleak, there will be no improvement.
We need to:–
● Restore order by bringing these facilities under the control of Corrections.
● Build new facilities in the Top End and the Centre that are near existing Corrections facilities.
You cannot deny that these young offenders are deeply troubled and suffer a range underlying emotional and psychological problems and that needs to be considered in any response.
However these detainees have also committed serious offences against our community and a balanced tough love response is needed.
Anything less than a tough response will be viewed with contempt by young tough offenders. The reality is that youth justice workers alone do not have the skills or capability to manage these kids.
We now have two major incidents of riots in detention centres over the past six months when youth justice workers have been completely out of their depth and unable to contain the violent behaviour of detainees.
In both these cases they have been forced to call on police and Corrections officers for assistance.
The Gunner Government needs to get their heads out of the clouds and take a fair and common sense approach to youth detention.
The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT gave us some ideas and principles to follow. How we implement the recommendations into the Territory context is our decision.
Robyn Lambley (Member for Araluen)
Terry Mills (Member for Blain)
UPDATE 2.30pm

The police union lashed out at the Department of Families over the Don Dale riot.
NTPA President Paul McCue said it “saw teenage offenders allegedly steal a set of keys, get hold of angle grinders in an alleged attempt to cut their way free of the facility, as well as obtaining an accelerant before setting a building alight.
“Police officers were called in to quell the riot and were pelted with projectiles … a police vehicle was also damaged during the riot.
“The Minister responsible must be held to account for this.
“It is particularly galling that police were put in danger, to clean up another government department’s mess, that should have been avoidable in the first place,” said Mr McCue.
UPDATE 1.45pm Nov 9
Leader of the Opposition, Gary Higgins, calls for CCTV camera vision of the Don Dale riot to be released immediately.
Mr Higgins says in a media release: “Yesterday the Minister for Territory Families, Dale Wakefield, misleadingly stated that CCTV footage of the Don Dale riot earlier this week may not be available due to a fire in the education building of the facility.
“This claim is clearly false. On radio the Children’s Commissioner stated that she had been shown and reviewed CCTV footage from the incident. Similarly, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, had CCTV footage described to her during a briefing from Territory Families executive staff,” says Mr Higgins.
“The Labor Government needs to come clean with Territorians and release the vision of the Don Dale incident, so that proper scrutiny of the Government’s management of that facility can take place.
“In 2014, then Shadow Minister for Corrections, Michael Gunner, stated that it was a ‘shocking situation’ for a riot to take place at Don Dale where ‘the only solution [was] for them to be tear gassed’.
“Mr Gunner went on to state that tear gas is a powerful and painful chemical and we need to know what led to it being used.
“The Opposition emphatically agrees with the then-Shadow Minister’s point and calls on the now-Chief Minister to immediately make CCTV footage of the incident available for public review.
“In the event that the Government arrogantly chooses to continue to cover up the details of this incident, the Opposition will file a freedom of information request under the Information Act to seek the disclosure of this critical vision,” said Mr Higgins.


  1. They need to be detailed in a secure area and they also need counseling and lots of programs to help them work through their problems.
    You can’t put the facility in a residential area. Come on government, get some reality checks done.

  2. Our current Chief Minister’s love affair with all things Chinese gives him an opportunity to address the every increasing problems of dealing with youth crime and incarceration while away on regular junkets.
    Just a thought, but why not invite a Chinese Government controlled organisation to set up somewhere west of Lake Woods. With their vast experience in handling large numbers of prisoners our burgeoning youth prison population will very quickly become a thing of the past as they learn the error of their ways.
    Their feral parents, where warranted, could also be involved.

  3. Ok, so I did a search and NT Families have the data on their website.
    There are fewer than 50 youths in detention in the whole of the NT!
    How can this not be managed?
    What is going on? 50 kids is two classrooms at many town schools.
    I can’t get my head around how youth detention can get so out of hand when the stats are so small.
    Surely, there are far more cost effective ways to punish / rehab youths who have offended.

  4. Watch’n: It’s because unlike school kids, these kids have probably never been to school or dropped out when they were very young as their parents neglected to make schooling mandatory.
    They don’t have respect for anyone or anything and are constantly looking to break things or intimidate people, as they have most likely had a poor upbringing regarding social interaction and lacked loving parents.
    Unfortunately this government doesn’t want any form of labels being stuck to them so they are more likely to do nothing. I have heard the courts are choosing not to send kids to detention because it’s “broken” and they can’t manage the kids there so they are just smacking them on the wrist and setting them free. Except for the really bad ones who start riots.
    The fact is, yes, these are kids but you still need to be firm with them and have protection for their minders to restrain them when the need arrives.
    And yes, if these were my kids trying to self-harm by head-butting the wall and spitting at guards then I would want them strapped in with a spit mask.
    Harden up Government, the people want action now!

  5. I bet the residents of Kilgariff who built their homes in a nice safe area would appreciate a jail next door. The extra traffic and families hanging around will not be a bother at all.
    Given how much the NT Government hates Alice Springs, I expect it to go ahead. It will get priority project status if the residents object too loudly, too.

  6. It’s only in comparitively recent times that we’ve developed an abhorrence to gaols and juvenile detention facilities within or near suburbia.
    There are two heritage-listed old gaols in or close to the CBD area of town. The old gaol in Stuart Terrace – now the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame – was built in 1938, simultaneously with the old Alice Springs Hospital and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, all neighbours along the same street frontage facing Stuart Park.
    There was also new housing on the other side of Stuart Park (now a historical precinct) where the top bureaucrats and civil servants of the day lived, all in close proximity to the gaol. Nobody minded.
    In the early 1960s more housing was built between the old Alice Springs Gaol and the new Traeger Park oval. Our family moved into a new residence on Telegraph Terrace on the block between the gaol and Traeger Park, living there for three years.
    There was also a new motel (Midlands) and primary school (Traeger Park) built within a short distance of the old gaol – again, nobody was fussed about it.
    In 1977 the first juvenile detention facility in the NT, called Giles House, was officially opened by Senator Bernie Kilgariff on the corner of South Terrace and Kempe Street in the Gap area.
    I’m unaware that anyone objected to its presence in that suburban location.
    There were many escapes from the old gaol and Giles House over the years, it’s nothing new.
    It wasn’t until the new Correctional Facility was opened in 1996 that the practice commenced of putting gaols well outside of the town area. Now many of us think that’s a normal situation but, from a historical viewpoint, it’s quite unusual.
    If a juvenile detention facility is established near the Desert Knowledge Precinct, it’s still a considerable distance from the nearest suburban area of Kilgariff.
    Seems to me some people are considerably overstating the risks and simply giving vent to their prejudices.

  7. It’s just like having renal housing in your street and the problems it brings and nobody is interested in solving the problems.
    The drunks and verbal abuse and the litter all over the street and also the number of times the police are called.
    Can’t wait to see the cosmetic changes to all the suburbs of Alice Springs, all gussied up to look like what they have done with Kilgrariff.

  8. Why have law? Why have a police force? Why have prisons?
    For all the mealy mouthed do gooders, get a life!
    These “poor little children” are in detention for a reason. Youth detention is there for a reason and whilst these little darlings are in there they have the opportunity to make a conscious decision as to the direction their lives are going to take apon release.
    And as such the people who are in charge need to take off the kid gloves.
    Let them live in the section that they burnt down and suffer that as self inflicted punishment and have the place run by hardened, experienced corrections officers.
    Let me also add that not all parents are feral, but when a government takes the place of a parent in that discipline in the home is forbidden and parents cannot even have curfew on their children, then it is the government that is feral.

  9. Why aren’t youth detention services under correctional services instead of family affairs? Family affairs have had their shot and failed. Time for someone else to step up.

  10. On my way past the canal development aka ASRI recently I spotted a large dust cloud off to the north along a series of new fences.
    Could it be that earthworks have already started on a new detention facility there without them telling anyone?
    No. They would never do anything like that would they?
    Come to think of it remember the first we heard of Kigarrif was a brief note from Paul Henderson as Chief Minister that the government had allocated $10m for head works just before an election. But governments don’t do things like that behind our backs, do they?

  11. When an employee fails to work for a business, that employee is sacked.
    Sack Dale Wakefield.
    They are useless as employees in everything Alice Springs.
    Full of distortions of the facts and truth.


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